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Derek Cianfrance Talks 'Place Beyond the Pines,' and Ryan Gosling's Face Tattoo

(Getty Images | Focus Features)

Writer/director Derek Cianfrance, who grabbed audiences' and critics' collective attention in 2010 with Blue Valentine, is back with The Place Beyond the Pines, an ambitious portrait of fathers and sons and the effect a single act of violence can have on generations. The film marks Cianfrance's second collaboration with Ryan Gosling, who stars in Pines as Luke Glanton, a dirt bike prodigy who turns to robbing banks to support his infant son. Glanton's story is one of three in Cianfrance's film as the narrative also follows Bradley Cooper's hotshot rookie cop, and flash-forwards 15 years to introduce the two men's teenage sons.

The Place Beyond the Pines drew considerable attention when the first set images surfaced showing Gosling shirtless and covered in tattoos, including a dagger under his left eye. We talked to Cianfrance about those tats (Gosling's idea), how his star came to regret the face tattoo, and the film's incredible opening tracking shot, destined to be the talk of critics everywhere when the movie debuts March 29th.

The tracking shot that opens Pines is just
fantastic. Can you talk about the decision to introduce Luke so gloriously, and admit that Goodfellas is your favorite movie?
Yes (laughs). My cinematographer, Sean Bobbitt, and I, when we were planning the visual style of the film, we thought the film had a very epic scope. it was epic in scale and scope and we thought the opening shot had to reflect that you know? we wanted to do, like so many of our favorite films that started with epic opening shots we needed to do that and we kind of wanted to stalk this character, just drop in on him in the middle of an action. And, yeah, it came together really beautifully.

You mentioned some other movies that started off with an epic first shot, what are some other examples?
Well, Touch of EvilThe Player4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days — but every shot in that movie is an epic opening shot you know what I mean? I respond to the unbroken take because you can't manipulate there. There's a truthfulness to it. All the chase action scenes in this movie we tried to shoot that way in long unbroken takes because to me, I was more inspired by America's Wildest Police Chases and Cops. I really wasn't inspired by the movies. I wanted it to feel real and in order for it to feel real it had to be real.

I've also heard you talk about creating an environment that fosters these kind of living, breathing moments for your actors. What scenes in Pines came about that way, if any?
Ryan Gosling called me eight weeks before shooting and said, "Hey D, lets have the most tattoos in movie history in this one." And I said, "Okay, you want tattoos." He said, "Yeah." He says, "And I want a face tattoo." I said, "Are you sure you want a face tattoo? That's really permanent." He says, "Yeah and it's gonna be a dagger and it's gonna be dripping blood." And I said, "Okay well that's, you know, if I was your parent, I would tell you, 'Don't get a face tattoo because you're going to regret it.'" And I said, "But you're a big boy, do whatever you want to do."

So flash-forward eight weeks later we're shooting. First day of shooting Ryan comes up to me at lunch and says, "Hey D, I think I went too far with the face tattoo. I think we should go reshoot all the stuff we just did." And I said, (shaking head) "That's what happens with the face tattoo, you regret it, and now you're stuck with it. We're not going to reshoot anything and you gotta live with it for the rest of this movie." What it created in him was this shame. He was ashamed of himself. He had a regret and walked into every scene with that regret... (continued in video).

Check out the rest of our interview with Derek Cianfrance here:
View Derek Cianfrance Pictures »
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